The Exhumation of Frederico Garcia Lorca

From the CBC:

Relatives of Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, executed in 1936 at the age of 38 during the Spanish Civil War, will not block a judge’s order to open a mass grave where his body is believed to have been dumped.

Lorca’s niece, Laura Garcia Lorca, told El Pais, Spain’s largest-circulation newspaper, that the family would prefer that the gave remain undisturbed. “But we respect the wishes of other parties involved,” she said, “and we would not oppose it.”

Although there is no official record of how many died, it is believed that more than 30,000 victims of the Spanish Civil War and the repression that followed under Gen. Francisco Franco’s 36-year dictatorship lie in mass graves across the country.

Lorca, who wrote on themes of human suffering and injustice, and who was open about his homosexuality, was among those who disappeared with no record of their fate or final resting place. It is believed his remains are in a mass grave in a mountain gorge just outside Granada, where he lived.

I remember reading Lorca when I was in Grenada Spain (one of my favorite cities on the planet). I especially like this poem of Lorca’s (first in Spanish, then a free translation by me)

El Balcon

Si muero,
Dejad el balcon abierto.

El nino come naranjas
(Desde mi balcon lo veo)

El segador siega el trigo
(Desde mi balcon lo siento)

Si muero
Dejad el balcon abierto.


If I die,
Leave the balcony open.

A boy eats oranges
(From my balcony I can see)

The reaper is harvesting the wheat
(From my balcony I can hear).

If I die,
Leave the balcony open.

Very bittersweet poem especially when read in light of his death and the later closing of Spain by the Fascist dictatorship. El Balcon in Spanish can mean either balcony or a vantage point. The double meaning I read as intended. Leave the perspective open.

In the third last line, I also sense a brilliant double entendre/pun. Lo siento means “I can hear it”–the “it” being the thrush of the reaper’s instrument, perhaps a scythe, thereby indicating the Grim Reaper and connecting back to Death who is haunting the poem. But lo siento also means “I’m sorry”. The verb sentir typically means “to feel” (“to hear” as is used in this case is a minor meaning of the word).

“From my balcony, I am sorry.” Sorry about or for what exactly? Sorry to be dying? Sorry to leave this world and having only to leave instructions to the hearer to visit the balcony and see the child eating and the harvester reaping? To see life giving activities (food preparation and food consumption) as a way to assuage the sorrow of death?

The story of Lorca’s death is as follows:

In 1936, García Lorca was staying at Callejones de García, his country home, at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was arrested by Franquist soldiers, and on the 17th or 18th of August, after a few days in jail, soldiers took García Lorca to “visit” his brother-in-law, Manuel Fernandez Montesinos, the Socialist ex-mayor of Granada whom the soldiers had murdered and dragged through the streets. When they arrived at the cemetery, the soldiers forced García Lorca from the car. They struck him with the butts of their rifles and riddled his body with bullets. His books were burned in Granada’s Plaza del Carmen and were soon banned from Franco’s Spain.

Top image: Lorca
Bottom image: Grenada Cathedral Spain.  [Courtesy Flicker-er ra1000 via Creative Commons]

Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 7:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This helped me alot

  2. So is this the “official version” of his death, or just the same thing everyone else keeps saying?

  3. Mr. Federico Garcia Lorca was very talented. I have to believe that he was executed because of his homosexuality. He lived in a time where he was open about his homosexuality and many did not like this fact. It is a sad ending to a great artist of his time. Converging on the movie Little Ashes, Javier Beltran portrayed Mr. Garcia Lorca to a tee. Federico Garcia Lorca will always be remembered around the world for his contributions and works in writing and film. I am from Canada and sad that he such a tragic ending to his short life. May he rest in peace now.

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